Jackson, Miss. – The United States Department of Agriculture / Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering financial and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers who want to better manage their working farm lands for the Yazoo Darter and Black Pine Snake habitat.
The Working Lands For Wildlife (WLFW) initiative is funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and will provide producers with funding and technical assistance for the implementation of conservation practices that help to restore populations of these two declining species. It will also benefit other species with similar habitat needs.
NRCS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together on the initiative to help landowners restore and protect the productivity of working lands while providing improved regulatory predictability.
“WLFW initiatives help at-risk species from being listed as an endangered species wherever possible.” stated Mississippi State Conservationist KurtReadus. “It assists with conservation practices already implemented to restore habitat for threatened or endangered species.”
The Yazoo Darter (Etheostoma raneyi) typically inhabits small streams and is found within the Yocona and Little Tallahatchie River watersheds in Mississippi. In recent years, Yazoo Darter populations have been on the decline. The areas of focus for the Yazoo Darter will include portions of Benton, Calhoun, Lafayette, Marshall, Pontotoc Tippah, Union, and Yalobusha Counties that are within the Little Tallahatchie and Yocona River watersheds.
The Black Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi) is endemic to the longleaf pine ecosystem that once covered the southeastern United States. Optimal habitat for these snakes consists of sandy, well-drained soils with an open-canopy of longleaf pine and a dense ground cover. Their numbers have greatly reduced and are federally protected as a threatened species. The areas of focus for the Black Pine snake will include portions of Forrest, George, Greene, Harrison, Jackson, Jones, Lamar, Lauderdale, Marion, Pearl River, Perry, Stone, Walthall, and Wayne counties.
Implementation of certain conservation practices through WLFW should help to restore additional acreage of longleaf, slash and loblolly pine to increase and improve habitat. This initiative will complement the current national WLFW initiative for the Gopher Tortoise which share similar habitat.